A commitment of the MWDBE Governmental Committee to area Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises is to serve as a resource for technical assistance and business development and to provide face-to-face networking among agency representatives and the business community.
On March 7 at Rivers Casino, the Governmental Committee held true to its commitment during its 18th Annual Conference, as approximately 350 city, county, state, federal government agencies, lending institutions and MWDBEs gathered with the goal to provide and/or receive information to secure contracts in the goods and services, construction and professional services markets.
“The event was really nice and according to feedback we have received, participants were satisfied with the changes in this year’s format,” Juan Garrett, of the Riverside Center for Innovation, said. Explaining the table networking format, he said, “Our goal was to assure that the MWDBEs had enough time to meet and get to know the vendors, to begin building a strong relationship. By providing table-talk discussions, venders had the opportunity to share who they are and the services they provide while gaining knowledge of the suppliers’ needs.” In addition to the table networking, changes in the conference carrying the theme, “Strategies for Success: A Roadmap for Economic Inclusion,” included two fireside chat sessions, an Equitable Inclusion Vision Panel and state Representative Ed Gainey serving as Honorary Conference Chairman.
Representative Gainey pointed out that if Pittsburgh is to grow, it’s necessary to understand the importance of MBEs and WBEs. “We cannot continue to talk about diversity as a sexy conversation, it has to be a real conversation because we want to grow Pittsburgh. We must understand that diversity is real. When businesses grow and we embrace diversity, the region grows.”
He also stressed the importance of working with and developing entrepreneurs so the talent, which he called geniuses, does not have to leave the region to find opportunities. He said efforts have to be more intentional about growing MBEs and disadvantaged businesses here. “If we are not intentional the will is not present. It’s not about politics or business; it’s a heart thing,” Rep. Gainey said. “In order to improve business, your heart has to be touched, it has to be known that you care about wanting to diversify this economy. You must care and be intentional in hiring MBEs and WBEs. If not, you will continue to do what you did yesterday and years before. We have to work to become the region we are destined to become…that global capitalistic society that everyone is a part of.”
In closing he encouraged the MBEs/WBEs to make the best of the day by being intentional in making contacts that develop into contracts.
Fireside chats were moderated by Clarence Curry of the Sports and Exhibition Authority and Diamonte Walker of the Urban Redevelopment Authority. Jenee Oliver of the Allegheny County Airport Authority served as co-moderator of both.
Curry’s topic was entitled, “What to Know About Doing Business with Large Firms.” Panelists included: Todd Dunaway, Mosites Construction; Jennifer Howe, PJ Dick; Kim Detrick, Housing Authority City of Pittsburgh; Samantha Stedford, Allegheny County Airport Authority; Michael Monohan, Allegheny Health Network; and George Robinson II, UPMC. Advice provided during the conversation indicated that it is important to build relationships with representatives in the departments of interest.
Walker’s topic was labeled, “Roadmap to Being a Successful DBE.” Panelists included: Richard Taylor, ImbuTec; Susan Tusick, Tusick Architects; David Motley, MCAPS, LLC; Stephanie Turman, ABC Consulting; and Renee DeMichiei Farrow, Architectural Innovations. The discussion focused around being proficient and consistent at your craft, to be willing to take risks and to be efficient at filling out requests for proposals.
“Do your passion,” stressed Turman. “If you are not doing your passion, what gets you up in the morning and just doing it for the money it won’t be that important to you.”
She also suggested having strong mentors and encouraged the MBE/WBEs to not give up. “Keep going, give your information. Do not give up. Stay in people’s faces and speak up for yourself.”
The Equitable Inclusion Vision Panel, also a new addition to the conference, consisted of Vernard Alexander of The Minority Networking Exchange, Samantha Black of SYLA PGH, Wasi Mohammed of Forward Cities, Majestic Lane of the City of Pittsburgh, Will Allen of Nascent Group Holdings, LLC, and Brian Burley of the Allegheny Conference.
Recently retired from the U.S Small Business Administration and with 38 years of governmental service, Judith Kirby was inducted into the MWDBE Governmental Committee Hall of Fame. The 28th inductee, Kirby, in her remarks, advised the MWDBEs to get connected to an agency that can provide focus and guidance. “Make sure your books are in order. You need to have a good bookkeeping system and do right by the government,” she said. And she recommended choosing the correct certification program.
“There are a lot of certification programs out there but instead of going after all of them, pick the one you want to do business with, find out which certifications are important to them. Don’t just spin your wheels and go after everything.”
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